Thursday, October 8, 2015

A dark day for dark money disclosure

Vince Rabago, acting as attorney for Barbara Tellman, filed a lawsuit trying to discover the donors to a corporation that funds a political committee running attack ads in the Tucson city council election. AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) quotes from Vince's email about how the hearing went.

... it took some effort and questioning, but the President of this Dark Money corporation eventually gave more surprising testimony never revealed before to the public prior to our lawsuit. The heads of this corporation are the same three people in charge of the political committee! The President of the out-of-state corporation is Christine Bauserman. The Chairwoman of the political committee is Christine Bauserman. The other Board Member of the corporation is Frank Antenori. The sponsor of the political committee is also Frank Antenori. The treasurer of the corporation is a Sean Bailey, and the treasurer of the political committee is Sean Bailey. Last but not least, the out-of-state corporation is even using the same Tucson mailing address being used by the political committee when the corporation makes its political contributions.

This information has never been revealed before. It tells us a lot about a carefully orchestrated shell-game of concealment and the undeniable relationship between a Dark Money corporation and a political committee.

You may remember a skit on the Stephen Colbert show a couple of years ago in which Colbert and Jon Stewart played out a similar shell game motivated by the Citizens United SCOTUS ruling.

One can only guess how the discussion goes among themselves, when these three people – on behalf of the independent expenditure political committee – apparently ask themselves as officers of the corporation — to make political contributions to their own political committee, and also call them "grants." It must be a difficult decision.

The President of the corporation even testified that they had "no intent" at the present time to give more donations and that no "grant" requests were pending. Apparently, the heads of Revitalize Tucson have not yet asked themselves (as the heads of the out-of-state corporation) for more political contributions. Such previously undisclosed manipulation of entities to influence our elections can cause you to shake your head in disbelief.

Indeed. But expect to be doing a lot more head-shaking before anything is done to reform campaign finance laws. I commend Vince and Barbara for trying. I condemn Antenori and Bauserman for lying.

One thing is clear from the court’s ruling allowing a Dark Money corporation to continue engaging in our elections without registering as a corporation in Arizona: Legal reform is needed to force disclosure from corporations that engage in this sort of activity.

Reform is desperately needed if an out-of-state Dark Money corporation can so easily game the system by claiming that its own direct political contributions are not political contributions and instead are "grants" from a private foundation, when that same entity is actually registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(6) "trade" member organization, and where the political committee is officially reporting the money as political contributions.

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